That’s right, you heard correctly: the fight to eradicate extreme poverty and preventable diseases does not go on holiday. The proof? Even with the 30+ degree temperature of the eternal city during summertime, our Italian Youth Ambassadors put on their blazers and ONE t-shirts to meet Italian political leaders. They took very seriously their commitment to deliver over 400 handwritten postcards collected all over the peninsula in the past few months. These, along with the over 130 thousand signatures to our petition, represent the strong support that exists from the Italian public for the Global Fund.
On June 26th, our mighty Youth Ambassadors – Rebecca, Vittoria, Fabiana, and Francesca – met with the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation Emanuela Del Re. They told her that they want Italy to #StepUpTheFight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by pledging 160 million to the Global Fund. With the support of Peter Sands, the Executive Director of the successful multilateral organisation, they expressed to her Italy’s views and hopes for the future.
These young activists are everywhere to inspire change, and they don’t take no as an answer! We decided to interview two of them to get some insights on what happened during this meeting and how their activism was received by the Italian leader.
How and why did you get involved with ONE?
Rebecca: I literally came across ONE on Facebook as they were searching for new Youth Ambassadors. I was amazed and thrilled at the thought of becoming one of them, mostly because ONE is the vehicle that allows many students and young people like me to do great things with small tools, passion, and coordinated effort. I wanted to make a difference for those who cannot do it for themselves and ONE is just the perfect home for people who love to help others.
Vittoria: I was told about the opportunity to become a ONE Youth Ambassador by my university program director. I have always tried to help others as much as I could through volunteering in my neighbourhood, but ONE offered me the possibility to do more. I really believe that putting pressure on politicians to step up the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases is the best way to achieve our goals. Our leaders are the ones who make decisions and represent us, so I wanted to be on the frontlines in the fight for a better world.
Do you think that AIDS is a disease of the past?
Vittoria: I would like to think so, but unfortunately this is not the truth. The reality is that you wouldn’t know it from watching the news, but AIDS, TB, and malaria still represent a global emergency. Only in 2017, 1 million people died of HIV and only today one thousand girls have contracted this disease. In fact, women and girls are at a much greater risk of being affected by infectious diseases than boys and men of the same age due to factors tied to gender discrimination. While progress against AIDS is one of the most celebrated success stories in global health, we shouldn’t stop fighting now!
Why is an ambitious Italian pledge to the GF so important to you?
Vittoria: If all countries increase their financial pledges to the GF by 15%, this very successful multilateral organisation will be fully financed and will be able to continue its fantastic, life-saving job in the future. For Italy, this means to pledge 160 million euros, which alone would help save 200,000 lives. Such a contribution would make me proud of my country, which will be playing a leadership role in this fight and will send a positive message to other countries. As an Italian citizen, I recognise the importance of an ambitious pledge in order to ensure that every person in the world has the possibility to avoid being affected by preventable diseases and has access to the necessary cures.
What did you hear from members of the public while collecting postcards?
Rebecca: Collecting postcards was both fun and inspirational. People were really curious and interested in what we were doing. Most of them were excited to contribute to a just cause only using the power of their voices. Many others didn’t know that TB is still an existing disease and how many deaths AIDS still causes each year. I also remember a lot of children between three and ten years old filling their postcards with pure messages of love and solidarity, showing that empathy is not a matter of age. In fact, those were the messages that impressed the Minister the most.
What was the Minister’s reaction and what did she have to say?
Rebecca: She was undoubtedly impressed about all the people who have written to her and how much passion each single person put in their handwritten postcards. She read a few ones during our meeting and she was very excited by the children’s warm, affection, and creativity. She confirmed that global health is one of the top priorities of Italian development cooperation, also through investing in efficient and effective multilateral institutions, which deliver strong value for Italian tax payers’ money. She added that Italy will do its part to make sure that the Global Fund is fully funded – something that would make us really proud. She concluded that the new generations are mainly impatient and demand immediate rewards, but that we are the proof of successful youth activism. She was so impressed that she went as far as suggesting that we YAs deliver a public speech at the G7 in August to allow youth to make their voices heard at the highest levels of politics.